Celebrity Cruises is making luxury a reality

Celebrity Cruises is investing heavily in the brand to attract its luxury demographic. Michele Witthaus talks to president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo

Celebrity Cruises is making luxury a reality
Celebrity Edge will have multiple new venues that are designed to bring a new level of luxury to cruising

This article was first published in the 2018 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

For Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the year to date has involved many conversations about the technical innovations and challenges of new flagship Celebrity Edge. With engineering feats such as the Magic Carpet, which scoots up and down the outside of the ship, or the Infinite Verandas that stretch right out to the edge of the decks, there’s no doubt that Celebrity Edge pushes the boundaries of what a cruise ship looks like. But how is Celebrity’s guest profile developing in this context?

“I’m flattered when people describe Celebrity Edge as ‘transformational’ as we truly set out to change the way people perceive cruising – she’s unlike anything that’s ever been offered on the high seas,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “We expect that the profile of our guests will grow more broadly to include those that have never cruised, and those that have heard so much about Celebrity Edge that they’re curious to see her for themselves.”

Celebrity Edge has the distinction of having been designed entirely in 3D and was the first cruise ship to be revealed in 3D. “It’s given us the freedom to create something very special,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “Stepping into our Innovation Lab and putting on a virtual reality headset to interact with the blueprints of a ship and see changes implemented before your eyes, makes for a more creative development process. The entire design process has pushed us to reimagine what a cruise ship can be from top to bottom, inside and out. To achieve the level of quality we wanted guests to experience has required us to throw out the traditional model of ship design that had gone before and start again.”

This rethinking of established models goes deeper than the fabric of the ship for Lutoff-Perlo, who believes that Celebrity’s guests are looking for authentic experiences that are not found anywhere else. “The key to ‘Modern Luxury’ is understanding that one-size-fits-all doesn’t cut it with our guests,” she explains. “We’re seeing that there is no ‘typical’ profile. Each guest, family and group should be treated personally. We put the individual wants and needs of each guest at the heart of what we do, from the bucket-list shore excursions we have developed to the culinary offers onboard, and we see this translated into the very fabric of our newest series of Edge-class ships.

“The one thing I will say is that our goal is to attract guests who care about the same things we do; whether it’s how we design our experiences around our five pillars (Design, Destination, Culinary, Accommodations and Service) or the fact that our brand platform is opening up the world for our guests to experience other places and cultures,” she adds.

Finding those guests with just the right brand affinity is crucial, but at a time when data protection laws can make it harder for organisations to legitimately seek interaction with their customers, cruise lines are having to work harder – and smarter – to secure legitimate guest feedback and build ongoing brand loyalty without falling foul of the rules.

“We only capture data that our guests have given to us and retain the data that we have been given permission to use by our guests – and that we are able to keep by law – as it relates to the experience they are going to have,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “We’re open with our guests about our data privacy policy and how we use their data to make sure that they have the best possible booking and cruise experience.” 

Guests are seeking greener cruising experiences, and Celebrity is moving ahead with its own sustainability commitments, as well as those in partnership with parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “We are stewards of the oceans and have a responsibility to the destinations we visit,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “Sustainability makes sense environmentally and commercially. This means doing our bit to sail in healthy oceans and visiting destinations that are thoughtfully managed for the long term.”

Lutoff-Perlo says that Celebrity will meet and exceed the global company’s sustainability goals for 2020. “We’ll reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of our operations by 35% compared to where we were in 2005. We’re reducing the volume of single-use plastics onboard the fleets, eliminating plastic straws by the end of 2018 and continuing with a full plastic audit underway.” 

The brand’s onboard cuisine will also see positive changes. “We’ll responsibly source 90% of all of the global wild-caught fish served on our fleets from sustainable sources,” says Lutoff-Perlo. “We’re working with World Wide Fund for Nature to identify the environmental impacts of the ingredients we buy, to help us make better choices in the future.”

The commitment to sustainability continues in each port visited. “We’re leveraging the influence of Celebrity and our sister brands to conserve and protect natural and cultural resources, responsibly sourcing tours that are certified by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, when quality, price and availability are equal,” Lutoff-Perlo comments.

Shore excursions offered by the company extend the onboard experience to offer something personal and unique to each individual. “That might mean joining a wine expert to visit a favourite vineyard or dining in a local food market,” comments Lutoff-Perlo. “We enjoy creating the little moments that enhance the whole guest experience. We have curated a portfolio of shore excursions that focus on authenticity and bring to life the true identity of the destinations.

“We’re privileged to work closely with experts in destinations across the world so that our guests are fully immersed in the locations they visit,” she adds. “In the Galapagos Islands, renowned marine and earth scientist Ellen Prager serves as our science adviser. She knows the islands’ innermost secrets, their famous inhabitants and their unique bridge from past to future. She’s worked with our shore excursion teams to create unique experiences that will bring the islands to life for our guests.’

Celebrity Cruises’ Global Destination Ambassador Ben Fogle, who joined the brand to offer ‘Great Adventure’ excursions, is now offering new experiences in the Caribbean and Alaska. “Guests can go ocean yacht racing in Antigua, climb a volcano in St Kitts, or paddle through the Alaskan wilderness.”

Another option for guests going ashore is Chef’s Market Discoveries, which explore the gastronomic secrets of a destination. “Hosted by one of Celebrity Cruises’ talented chefs, guests meet farmers and food producers, tour markets and taste local specialities,’ says Lutoff-Perlo. “The gourmet experience culminates with an exclusive dinner on-board, prepared by the chef using ingredients from the day’s market haul.”

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Michele Witthaus
By Michele Witthaus
21 December 2018

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